World Humanitarian Day Honours people who help people
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Tomorrow, the19th of August, is World Humanitarian Day and as every year since 2008, tomorrow the European Commission will honour those who dedicate their lives to preserving and improving the lives of others who need assistance to survive.
“Humanitarian workers are humble but their achievement is not: each of them can make a difference for hundreds of human beings and this could be the difference between life or death, between starvation and deprivation or promise and self-sufficiency,” pointed out Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
Collectively, the EU is the world’s largest humanitarian donor. since the start of this year it has delivered over 37% of global humanitarian funding. The Commission is actively engaged in ensuring that Europe’s leadership in the humanitarian sphere delivers concrete results. Its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate General (ECHO) has more than 400 people working in 47 field offices anywhere in the world where humanitarian aid is needed.
The Commission collaborates with over 200 relief organisations. Its humanitarian partners include 14 United Nations agencies, 191 non-governmental organisations and three international organisations (The International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, The International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and the International Organisation for Migration).
In 2010, the Commission funded the activities of the world’s most efficient humanitarian aid operators with €1.115 billion. This support is translated into relief and hope for 151 millions of suffering people in 80 countries.
This is the fourth time that World Humanitarian Day is marked around the world, honouring humanitarian staff who lost their lives and raising awareness about humanitarian assistance worldwide. The UN has chosen “people helping people” as the motto of this year’s campaign. The World Humanitarian Day was established in 2008 by the UN General Assembly which picked 19 August in memory of the 22 UN humanitarian workers who were killed by the bomb explosion in the UN office in Baghdad, Iraq, on 19 August 2003. One of them was the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.
“World Humanitarian Day marks a time of remembrance and regret – and of resolve to continue to help those most in need despite the dangers,” Commissioner Georgieva said.
Humanitarian workers pay a high price for their commitment. Kidnappings, shootings and death threats are part of the job description in Afghanistan and Somalia, Darfur, Sri Lanka and many other places. According to the UN, in the last ten years it has become increasingly dangerous for aid workers to deliver assistance to those in need. Attacks on humanitarian posts have tripled, resulting in about 100 deaths per year. In 2010 there have been 129 security incidents targeting humanitarian workers; 69 of them were killed, 86 were injured and 87 were kidnapped.
The EU is dedicated to continue helping humanitarian aid workers in their combat against misery and to keep up its advocacy for the respect of humanitarian principles.
EUROPE’S HUMANITARIAN RECORD
Europe has a long and proud tradition of humanitarian service and is the birthplace of many of the world’s largest and most efficient relief organisations.
Throughout the years, EU Member States have engaged actively and donated generously to support the victims of numerous humanitarian emergencies.
The European Union has also actively provided humanitarian assistance for more than 40 years. In 1992 it created the European Community’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) “to ensure a swifter and more effective intervention”. In February 2010, when the current European Commission took up duty, ECHO was elevated to a full-fledged Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. The move reflected the Treaty of Lisbon, which gives a joint, more prominent role to humanitarian aid and civil protection. Kristalina Georgieva was appointed the first Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
The Commission has given humanitarian assistance in more than 100 countries around the world. Throughout the years, the biggest recipients of EU humanitarian funding have been: Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (during the dissolution of Yugoslavia), Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, the occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Russia and Burundi.
Major crises where EU solidarity has made a big difference are the South Asian tsunami of 2004 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and floods in Pakistan. An important aspect of the Commission’s humanitarian work is its focus on “forgotten crises”, humanitarian situations which are not widely reported in the media and where the Commission is often the sole provider of humanitarian assistance.
Today the European Union is the largest donor of humanitarian aid. The top twenty institutional donors in the world include the European Commission and eleven EU Member States – Sweden, the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Spain, France, Ireland, Belgium and Italy.